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Pumpkin Cheesecake With Gingersnap Crust And Caramel Sauce

11/21/2012 12:25 pm ET | Updated Jan 21, 2013
Jennifer Segal

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Pumpkin pie is always expected at Thanksgiving, but this year I decided to shake things up a bit and make pumpkin cheesecake instead. Having never made one before, I scoured the internet in search of the perfect recipe and tested six different variations. (Obsessive, I know, but you probably already know that about me by now.) I took what I liked from each one and created this recipe. I promise you: it's the ultimate sweet ending to your Thanksgiving feast -- and no one will miss that tired ol' pumpkin pie.

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The recipe is not hard -- as you can see, there aren't that many ingredients -- but it's a bit of a project, especially if you make the homemade caramel sauce that goes with it. I hope that won't stop you because it's totally worth it, especially once a year! I know many cooks avoid baking cheesecakes at home because they need to be cooked in a water bath (this is so they cook evenly and don't crack). It seems fussy but, honestly, it's not a big deal. You'll see below, all you do is set the cake pan in another larger pan and fill the larger pan with water.

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Begin by wrapping a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. I prefer to use heavy duty foil because it does a better job of preventing water from seeping into the pan and also comes in wider sheets. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

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Next, make the crust: combine the gingersnaps and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are fine.

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Add the melted butter.

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Then pulse until crumbs are moistened.

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Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.

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Then bake the crust for 15 minutes.

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Set the crust aside to cool, and move on to the filling.

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Combine the pumpkin, sugar and spices in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until shiny and thickened. This step, borrowed from Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe, both intensifies the pumpkin flavor and dries the pumpkin out.

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Next, transfer the pumpkin mixture to a food processor and run for one minute to smooth and cool the mixture.

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With the motor running, add the cold heavy cream.

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The mixture will look like this.

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Then add the cream cheese in large chunks.

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And process until smooth.

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Finally, add the eggs and pulse until just combined. It's important not to overmix -- if you incorporate too much air into the filling, it will rise and crack or fall when it bakes.

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Set the cake pan in a large roasting pan, then pour the filling into the cooled crust.

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Next, pour hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the springform pan.

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Bake in a 325 degree oven until just set, about 1-1/2 hours. If it jiggles when you shake the pan, it's not done.

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Let the cheesecake cool in the water bath, then leave it out on a rack to cool completely. Finally, cover and refrigerate until chilled -- at least four hours or overnight. On that note, it's a good idea to bake this cake a day ahead of time or early in the morning on the day you plan to serve it.

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The cheesecake is delicious on its own, but I love it best drizzled with homemade caramel sauce and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

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